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Poland 2009 70th Anniversary of 1939 Start of World War II - Terror Bombing of Wielun & Junkers Ju 87 Stuka Dive Bombers 10 Zlotych Silver Proof

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Nazi Stuka dive bombers attack Wielun at the start of the bloodiest conflict in human history, the German invasion of Poland in 1939!

Sold out at the Mint!On the wind-swept Westerplatte peninsula, in the wee hours of September 1, 1939, the old German battleship Schleswig-Holsteinopened fire with its main battery of four 11" guns at a small Polish military depot and its protectors. Thus, the first shots of the 20th century's bloodiest conflict were fired, and the Second World War began. The blitzkrieg against Poland began nearly six years of continuous warfare that engulfed the world and left more than 50 million people dead. This remarkable coin program commemorates the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II and includes base metalsilver proof, and gold proof coins. More about each of these, as well as the iconoclastic significance of this program, can be found later in this presentation.

Click here for all the coins in the Polish Start of World War II - 1939 program!

An aerial photograph from September 1st, 1939 showing the Polish town of Wielun after having been bombed by Junkers Ju 87 dive bombers of the Nazi German Luftwaffe.The Terror Bombing of Wielun
Before the Second World War, Wielun was a peaceful Polish town of about 15,000, located 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the German border. On September 1, 1939, at about 04:40 am, Stuka dive bombers of the German Luftwaffe attacked the town indiscriminately. Approximately 90% of the historic old town was destroyed, and many important buildings were hit, including the medieval Gothic church, the old town hall, and the hospital (despite a huge Red Cross sign painted on its roof). About 1,200 civilians died, representing 8% of the population.

The bombing of Wielun is considered one of the first terror bombings in history, and the very first in of World War II. The bombing had no military justification. Tactically, there were no Polish military forces stationed in Wielun. Strategically, the town held no heavy industry. German claims that the attack was a result of a mistake of the Nazi intelligence services (who reported that there was a Polish cavalry brigade stationed near the town) have been disproved. Officially, Poland recognizes the bombing of Wielun as a war crime.

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An Exceptional Coin Program
The notorious Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bomber, as operated by the Luftwaffe of Nazi Germany during the Second World War.Despite the current milieu of political correctness in Europe, Poland continues to be outspoken about the role of the belligerents and their war crimes. Other countries and their leaders are sometimes seen as taking a "head in the sand" approach to this unfortunate history, to the point of not even openly acknowledging that it happened. It is a contrasting story in Poland.

The Polish attitude is remarkably different. Poles are more than willing to both acknowledge and discuss the events their country (and some of them) witnessed. Their attitude is, "This happened. It was horrible, but it should not be forgotten." all the while admitting that even though the Poles lost (in a formal sense) early in the war, their struggle continued for the six long years the conflict endured.

That is what is remarkable about this coin program. It pulls no punches, even while starkly bearing witness to the actual events of history, no matter how ill-fated. Consider the national honesty of a country depicting the dramatic circumstances of its defeat, which led to six years of occupation and resistance. Please see the presentation later in this article about the Polish perspective of the legacy of World War II.

Click here for more great historical coins!

A map of Poland in early October 1939, as divided or partitioned by Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.Three Outstanding Coins
The 2 Zlote Nordic Gold Coin commemorates the heroic Polish defense of the Westerplatte peninsula for seven days against overwhelming odds, an event that served as an inspiration to Poland while German advances continued unchecked elsewhere.

The 10 Zlotych Silver Proof is shockingly direct. One side portrays a map of Poland rent in two down the middle, with two military movement arrows thrusting into Poland. The western arrow bears the swastika of Nazi Germany, while the eastern arrow bears the hammer and sickle of Soviet Russia. The other side depicts a German Junkers Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers, swastikas evident on their tails, in the midst of their bombing run on the center of old town Wielun. The town hall and another (burning) building as well as the bombs dropping can be seen through the cloud cover. The Stuka bombers are accurately depicted, from their signature inverted gull wings and wailing "Jericho Trumpet" siren, to their fixed spatted landing gear, dual sliding canopies, rear machine gun, to even the Luftwaffe insignia on their wings and body.

A flight or formation of Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers of the Luftwaffe dive bomb a city or industrial complex during World War II, as depicted on a Nazi German postage stamp.The 200 Zlotych Gold Proof is likewise direct in its depiction of an heroic but ultimately futile Polish defense, the siege of Warsaw. The historic clock tower burns on one side, while far above an enemy bomber releases its deadly load on the civilian populace. On the other side the Warsaw Mermaid stands defiant, sword and shield in hand, while all around her centuries-old city burns to the ground.

Please see the presentations later in this article for more information about the Battle of Westerplatte, the Siege of Warsaw, and the Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber.

Click here for all the coins in the Polish Start of World War II - 1939 program!

Obverse
A flight or formation of Junkers Ju 87 dive bombers release their bombs on the town of Wielun in the early morning hours of September 1, 1939. Through the clouds and smoke the town hall and Cracow Gate of Wielun can be seen. The legend WIELUN - 1 WRZESNIA 1939  translates  as "Wielun, September 1st, 1939".
Reverse
A map of Poland is split in two down the middle, with two military movement arrows thrusting into Poland. The western arrow bears the swastika of Nazi Germany, while the eastern arrow bears the hammer and sickle of Soviet Russia. The date of each invasion is indicated. The crowned white eagle, the national emblem of Poland, with the year of issue, the denomination and the legend RZECZPOSPOLITA POLSKA ("Republic of Poland") also appear.


Specifications
Country Poland
Year of Issue 2009
Issuing Authority  National Bank of Poland
   
Face Value 10 Zl
Weight 14.14 g
Diameter 32.00 mm
Mintage Limit 100,000
   
Finish Proof
Composition .925 Fine (Sterling) Silver
Edge Plain
Packaging Encapsulated

The Start of the War
The old German pre-dreadnought battleship DKM Schleswig-Holstein of the Kreigsmarine fires at Polish positions on the Baltic in early September 1939.Many historians see the signing of the Nazi-Soviet pact a week before the hostilities began as a critical development in Berlin's march to war. The pact, formally a treaty of non-aggression, was signed on August 24, 1939 in Moscow and dubbed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, after the foreign ministers of the two respective countries.  The treaty included secret protocols that divided eastern Europe into Nazi and Soviet spheres of influence. His confidence bolstered by the knowledge that the Russian war machine would not interfere (and would eventually intervene), Hitler launched his undeclared war against Poland before dawn on the first of September. The Red Army followed, crossing Poland's eastern frontier on September 17th and guaranteeing that her defense against the Germans would fail.

Despite Poland's eventual occupation in early October 1939 (Poland never formally surrendered, but rather continued as a state with a government in exile), many members of her armed forces, including army brigades and generals, were evacuated through Romania to Great Britain and France. Along with a number of ships of the Polish navy and token units of the air force, these continued to fight bravely alongside their Allies in the European theater of operations throughout the long years of the Second World War. Thousands of others joined the Home Army (Polish: Armia Krajowa or AK) and fought the Nazis in their homeland, culminating in a national insurrection.

Click here for all the coins in the Polish Start of World War II - 1939 program!

A flight or formation of Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers of the Nazi German Luftwaffe during World War II.Terror Weapon - The Junkers Ju-87 Dive Bomber
The Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka (from Sturzkampfflugzeug, "dive bomber") was a two-seat (pilot and rear gunner) German ground-attack aircraft. Designed by Hermann Pohlmann, the Stuka first flew in 1935 and made its combat debut in 1936 as part of the Luftwaffe's Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War.

The aircraft was easily recognizable by its inverted gull wings, fixed, spatted undercarriage and its infamous Jericho-Trompete ("Jericho Trumpet") wailing siren, becoming the propaganda symbol of German air power and the Blitzkrieg victories of 1939-1942, and featured in many motion pictures set during the war. The Stuka's design included several innovative features, including automatic pull-up dive brakes under both wings to ensure that the plane recovered from its attack dive even if the pilot blacked out from the high acceleration. Although sturdy, accurate, and very effective, the Ju 87 was vulnerable to contemporaneous fighter aircraft (like many other dive bombers of the war). Its flaws became apparent during the Battle of Britain - poor maneuverability, lack of speed and defensive armament meant that the Stuka required a fighter escort to operate effectively.

The Stuka operated with further success after the Battle of Britain, and its potency as a precision ground-attack aircraft became valuable to the German war effort in the Balkans Campaign, the African and Mediterranean Theaters and the early stages of the Eastern Front campaigns, where Allied fighter resistance was disorganized and in short supply. However, once the Luftwaffe had lost air superiority on all fronts, the Ju 87 once again became an easy target for enemy fighter aircraft. In spite of this, because there was no better replacement, the type continued to be produced until 1944. By the end of the conflict, the Stuka had been largely replaced by ground-attack versions of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, but was still in use until the last days of the war. An estimated 6,500 Ju 87s of all versions were built between 1936 and August 1944.

Please click here for the 10 Zlotych Silver Proof featuring Stuka dive bombers in formation!

The Defense of Westerplatte
The old German pre-dreadnought battleship DKM Schleswig-Holstein of the Kreigsmarine fires at Polish positions on the Baltic in early September 1939.An arsenal or ammunition storehouse known as the Military Transit Depot had been established by the Polish Army on the Westerplatte peninsula in 1926, at the Gdansk (Danzig) seaport. In 1939, around 180 soldiers and officers were garrisoned there. The Polish garrison's commanding officer was Major Henryk Sucharski, the executive officer was Captain Franciszek Dabrowski.

On 1 September at 4:45 am, the old German battleship Schleswig-Holstein started shelling Westerplatte. German assault troops, supported by heavy artillery and dive bombers, then began their initial attack. In terms of both men and firepower, the military advantage possessed by the Germans was immense. Despite this, and the fact that the war plan called for the Polish garrison to defend the Westerplatte outpost for only 12 hours without relief from units of the main Polish army, they managed to repel several attacks and hold out for seven days.

Over the course of this week, the Germans repeatedly bombarded Westerplatte with naval artillery and heavy field artillery, along with dive-bombing raids by Junkers Ju-87 Stukas. Continued attacks by the 3500 German soldiers were repulsed by the 182 Polish soldiers. Major Sucharski was informed that no help from the Polish Army would come. Cut off, with no reinforcements or chance of resupply, he continued his defense, keeping the main German force stalled at Westerplatte, thus tying down significant numbers of men and preventing attacks further along the Polish coast. The decision to surrender was made only after both water and medical supplies were nearly exhausted.

In all, only 15 Polish soldiers were killed, while inflicting between 300 and 400 casualties on the invading Germans. More than just a military defeat, the defense of Westerplatte was an inspiration to Poland while successful German advances continued elsewhere. Over the course of the first week of war, Polskie Radio broadcast every day, "Westerplatte still fights on", and so too did the Polish nation.

Please click here for the 2 Zlote Nordic Gold coin commemorating the Defense of Westerplatte!

Volunteer Polish firefighters watching an air duel over Warsaw in early September 1939. The propaganda poster reads The Siege of Warsaw
The Siege of Warsaw (also known as the Battle of Warsaw and the Defense of Warsaw) began one week after the start of the Second World War, on September 8, 1939. From the first hours of the war, as the capital and largest city of Poland, Warsaw was the victim of an unrestricted aerial terror bombing campaign.

A direct threat to Warsaw became evident on September 3, after German forces broke through Polish lines near Czestochowa. The Warsaw Defense Command was established the same day, with Brigadier General Walerian Czuma at its head. At the same time, the Warszawa Army, led by Major General Juliusz Rommel was created. Additionally, numerous volunteer units were organized. The municipal government, together with the Mayor of Warsaw, Stefan Starzynski (who took the position of Civilian Commissar at the Warsaw Defense Command, and who is pictured on the 200 Zlotych Gold Proof, also played a major role.

Ground fighting around the city started on September 8, when the first German armored units reached the Wola area and southwestern suburbs of the city. Despite German radio broadcasts claiming to have captured Warsaw, the attack was stopped and soon afterwards the Polish capital was placed under siege. During the siege the Polish defenders repulsed several full-scale German assaults, including a final one on September 27.

An aerial photograph from September, 1939 showing the capital and largest city of Poland, Warsaw, burning after having been bombed by bombers of the Nazi German Luftwaffe.The siege lasted until September 28, when the Polish garrison under Gen. Czuma capitulated. The event that served as a trigger for the surrender was accidental damage caused by a stray German bomb to the water supply system and subsequent lack of water. The following day approximately 100,000 Polish soldiers left the city and were taken prisoner of war. On October 1 the Wehrmacht entered Warsaw, which started a period of German occupation that lasted until the Warsaw Uprising, then later until January 17, 1945, when the Soviet Army "liberated" the city.

The Polish Army lost approximately 6,000 killed or missing in action and 16,000 wounded. After the capitulation approximately 5,000 officers and 97,000 soldiers and NCOs were taken into captivity. The civilian population of Warsaw lost 25,800 dead and approximately 50,000 wounded. As an effect of bombardment 12% of buildings were turned into ruins. No official list of German casualties was published. German casualties are estimated at 1,500 killed and 5,000 wounded.

Please click here for the 200 Zlotych Gold Proof honoring the defenders of Warsaw!

The burned out ruins of Warsaw, capital and largest city of Poland, in January, 1945, after Hitler had ordered it destroyed in retaliation for the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.Legacy - The Polish Perspective
Poland was as devastated as any country by the Second World War. She lost over 6 million citizens (half of them Jewish), representing over 20% of her prewar population, including the intentional extermination of the elite of her officer corps; intellectuals and intelligentsia; and much of the Polish clergy. Her capital, Warsaw, was leveled. During the German occupation, the country was used as a base for the Nazis' machinery of genocide - it was the home of Auschwitz, Majdanek, Sobibor and other death camps. So perhaps Poland is in a better position than any other country to speak to the horrors of this global conflict 70 years on, asking questions and seeking answers.

Poland continues to push for greater acknowledgment from Russia of its responsibility in the starting of the war, while Russia continues to try to minimize the impact of Moscow's 1939 pact with Berlin.

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